THE tobacco industry misled the public and legislators over cigarettes designed to pose less of a fire hazard, internal industry documents reveal. Manufacturers stated publicly that the cigarettes would not sell, even though their own research showed smokers couldn’t tell them apart from regular cigarettes.

In all countries where data is available, cigarettes are the leading cause of fire deaths. In the US alone, a thousand people are killed each year in smoking related fires, and a third of them are not the smoker responsible. At the beginning of January 2003, New York state will achieve a world first by introducing fire safety regulations for cigarettes to combat the problem.

Efforts to make cigarettes less likely to cause a fire began in the 1970s when the industry tested prototypes with different tobacco blends, fire resistant additives and low porosity paper that restricted the amount of oxygen reaching the burning tobacco. All the cigarettes …

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